New cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations due to the disease are starting to creep up again in Wisconsin as cold weather, holiday gatherings and low vaccination rates create conditions that could prompt officials to negate progress against the pandemic.
In Milwaukee, new infections increased significantly, from 152 cases per 100,000 people compared to 122 per 100,000 over the course of a week. There and elsewhere in the state, vaccination rates have remained stubbornly too low to effectively control the disease. And COVID-19 continues to spread, health officials say, as more people resort to mask-wearing and other mitigation efforts.
“Each of these things affects the virus and influences the trends. But in the end, no one can answer where we will be in a month or two months,” said Dr. Ben Weston, a Milwaukee County health policy adviser.
On Tuesday, pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer asked federal regulators to approve an additional dose of its vaccine for those concerned about waning immunity. This is because more children are now eligible for COVID-19 injections.
But studies suggest some parents want to wait, and as many as 3 percent of parents with children ages 5 to 11 will “definitely not” vaccinate them, according to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Although children are less likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 than adults, they can still transmit the disease to others, and more easily with the delta variant, doctors say.
“Any time, even in asymptomatic cases, these kids get covid, they can easily pass it on to everyone in their household or their community,” said Dr. Bill Hartman, who is leading a clinical trial of the Moderna vaccine in children 6 months to 4 years old.
On Tuesday, the Arena at the Alliant Energy Center in Dane County began offering COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11. This Saturday, Milwaukee’s health department will receive COVID-19 vaccine and flu shots at the Fiserv Forum, home of NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks. There, health officials say children receiving their first injections and adults receiving their first, second or third dose of COVID-19 vaccine can snap a picture of themselves with the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy.
In China, two children infected with the virus led to an outbreak of 246 people. Until then, COVID-19 had spread to factories in schools, mostly through family contact, according to a study that has not been peer-reviewed.
On Tuesday, state health officials reported 3,229 new infections from COVID-19. The number of cases has risen since late October, along with hospitalizations.
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to note that the number of new COVID-19 infections was 3,229 Tuesday.